Saturday, October 31, 2009

Crushed

I'm still new to blog-love in the formal sense, so I was astonished to find out someone's got a 'blog-crush' on me! *blushes*, looks down, sweeps ground with toes...sways from side to side coquettishly (is that a word?)...

Well i have to say, it's mutual, I just didn't know how to show it - there's so much to learn!

Thank you wholeheartedly to Julochka, mother of the wonder-blog, Moments of perfect clarity - an outlet for madness with occasional flashes of insight. I've been visiting and thoroughly enjoying this blog for a while now... sort ot stalking from the sidelines and now it's all out in the open! J wrote a lovely tribute type post about Holli's Ramblings today. I'm trying not to let it go to my head, but it just might... (reminds self: "Holli, remember crushes pass, don't be broken hearted" later) :)

She also posted a wonderful photo of a globe with a beautiful Africa as the focal point - it's gorgeous and I'm posting it here (all rights reserved or something, photo belongs to Julochka - hopefully she will still like me and not have me arrested for using the image without permission)



Interestingly, Julochka and others who fearlessly go where others have not gone before - have pioneered new terms, which I've discovered, have not even made it into the world famous urban dictionary (let alone Websters)!!! The terms 'blog crush' and 'blog love' are all new and innovative people! We are molding and editing language to follow the trends of our time! Aren't you excited?!

I'm starting to feel part of something bigger than all of us as individuals. Thanks again... Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Funnies from Natalie and Toothpaste

I discovered the hilarious comic genius of Natalie Dee a while ago and borrowed some of her bits here and here and here.

Her hubby is equally funny - his site is called Toothpaste for Dinner.

Here's a few of their recent comics that made me smile, and after all, TGIF! Smile with me :)


You have to love this, with all these new TV shows telling us how to 'dress for your body type'... as if we're all various fruits!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Girl in the box

Last time I was back in Canada visiting the family I found a box of my old life. It had hundreds of dusty and molding papers, photos, clippings, print outs, and mostly poems I had written.

I decided they would be worth keeping, if only for the humour and nostalgia in going over the thoughts and offerings of the teenage dreamer I was.

The plan has been to scan the lot, and then send the paper piles back for a boxed existence in my mother’s basement on some back shelf.

Last night I dragged out the various envelopes within, and sifted through. Most of the poems I found there were naïve and badly composed. They try too hard, with long adjectives and disjointed concepts. Who was that girl? I find it amazing that she lived in my frame, looked in the mirror and saw the young me.

So much has changed and I have forgotten how she felt. All that is left is the paper trail of her untidy emotions.

And then I found the following. It is dated April 22nd, 1994. I was 24 years old and Q was just over 1 year. We were living in an old row house in Toronto. The back window looked out over rusted train tracks and beyond that, lake Ontario.

The highrises around us were overflowing with the city’s poorest and most marginalized. We dodged used needles and condoms that littered the sidewalks on our daily outtings. I remember having at first thought the neighborhood was vibrant and gritty, when we had opted to move out here, for cheaper rent but still within walking distance to work.

We had recently lost our restaurant, investors had backed out right as the place was establishing itself as a fixture in the area. It was a few blocks over in the ‘trendy’ neighborhood of Queen West, and Q’s father, (my ex-locker partner and high school sweetheart) was on a slippery path to self destruction. It was the reason the business had fallen apart. Too much too young? Addiction: lies, behaviour changes followed.

This particular day, he gathered our comforter from the bed and carried it with purpose to the living room with it’s big bay window. Q and I watched him with curiousity, and I with a sinking feeling in my stomach. He hoisted himself up on a chair, and stretched from his tippy toes to nail the heavy blanket across the top of the window frame.

The smashing noise from the hammer was deafening and Q looked up at me, uneasy. I scooped him up and whisked him off to the other room to play. Then M walked by us. The light in the hallway had disappeared, shrouded in thick cloth.

M: “That old lady from next door! She keeps watching us! Well, I’ll show her…”

me: “What are you talking about?!”

Door slam. He was gone for the afternoon. I could only guess where, and did not want to take that mental journey. I lied down beside Q and his stuffed animals and sang softly, running my hands gently through his loose black curls, until he drifted off to sleep. Then I got up and decided to write, to put things in perspective and keep myself sane:

“His face was broad, the skin creamy and smooth and tight. This carefully beautiful face, created as if to make a mother question the sarcastic overtones of a ‘concept of God’.

Oh, he was no ordinary soul. A mother was sure. Why, one only had to ponder the enormous circumference of his eyes. Not uncommon was it to be stopped several times during the daily walks, with comments of praise and astonishment at the wonder of his gaze.

A mother again had to question her accomplishment. For even then she knew it was a twosome till death-do-us-part. Mother and child. Somehow she's known this while he played within her. Mompati - 'my companion', the name she'd given him after all the others on his birth papers.

And she felt comfort in that shred of stability, as everything else slowly fogged over around her.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Ordinary Art is Extraordinary

I’ve been on a cyber journey for the past two months – seeking out interesting and exciting blogs to populate my link list and to inspire me in writing.

I looked to ‘writing’ focused blogs and found a lot of highly motivated American mom/writers who get up every day and fold the laundry, pack the kids lunches, and find the ‘me’ time somewhere to work on their books. They talk of WIPs and ‘Me Time Thursdays’ and I feel small and excluded like junior high at recess…

I looked into funny blogs – the witty ones who’s authors think of all the cute titles for their followers and have one liners to fit all life’s day to day drone. They leave me feeling amateur and ill-equipped to comment. They are outside the world of the PC moms, a world I like but am afraid to join.

I stumbled upon racial focused blogs and made my small comments amidst those filled with angst and resentment.

I even went over to the development bloggers – those who represent a past in me that I have yet to analyse and deconstruct. Hence I am skeptical and dismissive yet still drawn to their experiences and perspective. Yet there too I am an outsider. I loathe projects and funding and all the industry entails.

I am an expat now – and looked to this group as well. The expat bloggers. I joined some sites, linked some great blogs. It is here I relate best to what is written, to the experiences and outlook.

In my search I have found some great people, sites, inspiration.

But I have been false in my intentions and I have been led astray. By the desire to fit somewhere, to get a blog award with a pretty tea cup on the picture and post it proudly on my blog, from an appreciative ‘blogger friend’. It is addictive this linking and commenting and creating of a network.

But it is not why I started to blog. It has nothing to do with the powerful gut deep desire to express, to write, to create. To share genuinely what I have to share.

And that is why today’s post is a dedication. To a blogger I randomly found, who has truly inspired me and made me regret my hours making small comments around the blogosphere.

This is a woman in a small corner of the web, in a small town somewhere, who has not been blessed with a perfect life or millions of friends and followers. But she is a true writer. She is the essence of the word. She is a great, a classic, undiscovered.

I feel like I’ve been busking and found the hidden diamond. I am torn between sharing and not. But it is not for me to hold her writing to my heart alone. After all, art is like life and should be shared, opened up and appreciated.

Her name is Kelly and the site is humbly called Ordinary Art.

Please read and digest the beauty and talent you find there. Real self-giving words that grace the page in a way I can only dream of. Share the link to this site. Send her a blog award. Or not. But she deserves recognition and a broader audience and I felt compelled today to do my little part.

Kelly – thank you for genuine inspiration and a glimpse of your beautiful soul.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Apple turnovers are NOT sweet

Apple computers are renowned for their reliability. They don’t freeze, they don’t crash. They make PC’s look like crippled dinosaurs. (All of these statements are up for debate, but are not the core topic of my rant).

So when JW and I got matching Macbook Airs, we looked forward to the carefree ease of working with the Mac operating system, on these slim, slick new devices. And it started off well! It boots up in 30 seconds and closes down in 3! It has adorable icons and finger scroll features I love!

I had always coveted these, since I first saw one – slim as a notebook and that cool metallic class… almost sexy I tell you. JW sees computers as he does all gadgets. He personifies them and gives them a peck now and then. He cleans them almost compulsively and makes sure all updates are current. He claims you must love and speak to your machines for them to respond and work for you. And his machines work for him. Seemingly forever. When he hands something down years later it looks brand new, no scratches, no apparent wear and tear. He even keeps all the boxes and manuals. I’ve written about his gadget mania here.

But today we are talking about me. About the complete opposite. I see machines as a means to an end. I need to do e-mails for work, I love to write and surf the net – a computer lets me do that. Thanks computer. But kiss it? C’mon. Even my sexy MacAir, which I love, is still just a computer.

I am beginning to believe there is something in JW’s theories though. I’ve had this machine for a few months. In that time it has experienced a myriad of bizarre glitches and freezes from time to time without explanation. Sometimes it flips. Goes crazy and starts calling me names. Then it’s functions break down one by one… If I cuddled it, would it be nicer?

There is another popular theory (in my household) that electronics are allergic to me. That I emit some sort of evil radioactivity that cripples them temporarily in my presence.
Only when I hold the TV remote does it get stuck on a channel, and the only fix is a complete shut down, reset… When I had a PC I easily blamed all the mysterious happenings on the inferiority of the software/hardware. Now that excuse is gone…
JW’s Macbook has only ‘misbehaved’ twice, and I was present both times. He was not amused.

Should I feel powerful or cursed? Special or freakish?

All I know is that I’ve stopped reporting all the bizarre things that happen with me and the electronics around us. It’s become my dirty little secret. My private little hell. I secretly wonder if I should choose the back seats in airplanes, just so I don’t inadvertently tamper with the cockpit electronics…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to break my diet with some red red for lunch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today’s lesson in cultural imperialism


We have a couple of lovely visitors staying with us from the land down under. They were both raised on rural dairy farms and are quite down to earth.

I have been asking about the cultural relations between the Aboriginal population and those of European ancestry in Australia. Their perspective is quite honest and derived from personal experience as opposed to academic. They are not concerned with political correctness or viewing relations objectively. I find their candidness refreshing.

Last night I heard the following story: in the white farming community where our visitor *Pamela grew up, there was an Aboriginal grouping quite close by, living on what they called a ‘reserve’.

The story goes, that when one of the influential and well known Aboriginal chiefs died, the priest from Pamela’s village insisted that he officiate at the funeral, and ‘splashed out’ on a fancy, expensive coffin of hardwood and a plush interior for the chief.

After the funeral, the priest made a courtesy visit to the chief’s family some time later. What he found was that the body had been dug up and the children of the chief’s family were found in the coffin, splashing around in their makeshift bathtub.

Imagine the shock for the priest! I’m sure he was incredulous. To this date, the majority of whites assume that the people were simply ignorant, uncultured and ‘wild’…
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So after Pamela’s narration of the story , I decided to investigate/research the beliefs and practices surrounding death and burial amongst Australia’s Aboriginal groups.

What I found cemented the notion I had about the blatant cultural/religious imposition.

Aboriginal groups have a completely different concept of what happens to body and soul after death and the traditional practices differ widely and wildly from the Christian conservatives who settled in these areas and proceeded to set up missions.

I found a highly detailed article online here (for those of you who might find this interesting), about the complicated funeral of an influential Aboriginal chief in 1997.

Basically, after a Christian funeral (to appease the ‘whitefellas’), the body is transported to a specially selected cave, removed from the coffin (which is simply a mode of carriage to the spot), and arranged on a high platform, protected from animals and exposed to drying wind.

After two years the bones are collected and ceremonially treated, and then presented to the family of the deceased in an elaborate ceremony of mourning and remembrance. Traditional belief sees the body being locked up in a box and sunk ‘six feet under’ as against the natural procession for body and soul.

Can’t blame them really…



Find here a very concise and well presented site on statistics regarding Aboriginal Australians.

*Any names of real people in this story have been changed to protect their identity.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Cobra the beans and the belly

So today is Monday. We promised (JW and I as a team) that the diet starts Monday. It was with conviction, after a few months of excess and due to the fact that our clothes are stretching to the limit to accommodate our girth…

So this morning my colleague comes to my desk, and assaults me with an offer I find I can’t refuse. Red red from the roadside seller in Osu. For lunch. Today.

“Ok! Great, thanks.” I’m all excited.

All those vows taken last night, as I chomped on a biscuit smothered in butter, with accompanying warm tea…forgotten in an instant.

But how could I fall so quickly? Day one, meal two?? (Breakfast was a very controlled scrambled egg. Plain. With water and multivitamins).

“Oh, but I shouldn’t. My diet started today.” Laughter from colleagues ensues… You see, this 'diet starting Monday' may have had quite a few public false starts…

The thing is that this red red from this seller is not something you can resist.
Red red is a local Ghanaian dish consisting of a tomatoey bean stew, served with fried plantains. Not low cal stuff. It’s yummy.

The famous seller has been sitting at her tiny outdoor stall, serving up the delicious stuff in bright green banana leaves, for literally YEARS. She sits on a bumpy untarred dead end road, near the old American Embassy in Osu (before they built their new fortress of epic proportions). People come from miles around.. (My colleague being a case in point. I will call him Ernie here, to protect his innocence).

On Friday Ernie mentioned going there and how amazing the food was – the smell, the texture as he indulged with his hands, scooping the beans from the waxy leaf, just like the good old days. The experience transported him to his youth and the carefree days of school.

As he was narrating the story, another colleague walked by and said:

“You know what you are eating!” in a warning tone and walked off. Ernie called her back.

“No, come back! Tell us what!”

A small crowd of us gathered. All the Ghanaians knew what she was going to say. I was the only clueless one (A common occurrence for me here!).

“The cobra under the table!”

Everyone laughed. It is apparently common knowledge/superstition/rumour that this woman uses juju (in this case a mystical cobra snake that hides in her stall), to get her customers craving her food and coming back for more.

I was amazed at this silly belief people hold, creating a witchhunt mentality – just because someone is doing well and has maintained a customer base.

Now it’s Monday. I am supposed to be on day one of a strict and purposeful diet, and yet my mouth has been watering since first thing this morning at the mere suggestion of the red red…

Perhaps there’s more to this juju thing than I care to admit???

On the other hand I could just be a typical diet failure, losing the willpower before it began!!!

The diet starts Tuesday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stumps to spark action abroad - Ghanaians plant the seed locally!



A petite pervasive Scottish blond woman arrived on Ghanaian soil two years ago with a vision. A bizarre and complicated vision.

She wanted to uproot 10 massive rainforest tree stumps, and have them shipped to the UK. (Each is the size of a gnarled house – note the size of a man beside the uprooted stump in the photo)…

Her name is Angela Palmer and her vision is about to be realized, and the fruits of her labour will comprise the Ghost Forest Project, to be on display in London in November.

What!?!

Yes, I am not kidding. At a cost of £250,000 for the transport aspect alone, not to mention the logistical nightmare encountered getting them out of the forest, the manpower involved and even libations poured to angered gods in the area….
What is the point of this seemingly indulgent and over-the-top endeavour?

Art.

Oh, and the desire to highlight issues of deforestation.

The stumps will be displayed in Trafalgar Square in London from November 16th to 22nd, and then moved once again to Thorvaldsens Plads, Copenhagen, Denmark to coincide with UN Climate Change conference.

Many questions need to be raised here. What is the carbon footprint of this project? What are the costs in total and could the funds have been better allocated in a campaign to highlight climate change?

What is the desired and measurable effect? Is it a mad delusional artist’s self indulgent dream or is it an important and unprecedented step in exposing the issues at hand?

What are the issues at hand?

Deforestation in the tropics accounts for nearly 20 per cent of carbon emissions due to human activities. That’s quite a staggering figure.

Considering that Ghana has lost 90% of its virgin rainforest in the past 50 years, there is definitely a need for a change in practise.

This exhibit will definitely be eye-catching and thought provoking, both in London and Copenhagen. But here where we need it – here where the deforestation persists and where the affects of global climate change will be most harshly felt – what will be the benefit?

Ghanaians know nothing of this project or it’s aims. Apart from those involved in moving these mammoth stumps from the rural areas down to the Takoradi port and schlepping them onboard the cargo ships, it has slipped under the radar. It has missed it’s chance to shock and educate and to inform.

I get visions of Live 8 back in 2005, aimed at raising awareness and money to eliminate African poverty, yet not one African band or contributor was included.
If we want to make a difference in the so-called third world, we need to involve, include and make accountable the communities that need it most.
All is not lost though. In 2008, Ghana became the first country in Africa to enter the VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) with the European Union in an effort to outlaw illegal logging, which incidentally still accounts for over half its harvested timber.

This year, the John Bitar company in Western Ghana where the tree stumps were excavated from, began one of the world's largest private reforestation programmes, which involves planting 25 million trees on degraded land over the next five years.



Meanwhile, back home for me in Accra, on a street I walk by all the time, a massive majestic wonder of a tree was unceremoniously hacked down earlier this year, at the edge of a residential plot. The tree was so big that it blocked the street for days while teams of men hacked the giant corpse into small enough pieces to carry away.

The roots were so hard and big and old, that thy abandoned the job from about 4 feet to the ground…

I kept waiting to see what would be built there in it’s place. What on earth could justify cutting a tree that was centuries old and provided shade and a home to wildlife all it’s days.

Today, on Blogger Action Day, I walked by the familiar corner. The owner of the house has planted some garden plants to hide the eye sore that is the massive base of the tree.

Come on Ghana!!! Let’s value our trees and ourselves!

Start asking about climate change and it’s affects. Let’s not attend seminars on climate change, just to collect our per diems and get the funding.

In the end, Ghana is for Ghana’s children and they deserve a better and stable future without flooding and famine.

Read, explore, learn... Get involved for the sake of sharing knowledge and promoting change – right here at home.

Today is Blog Action Day! Visit the site! Take part!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ghana shines in Cadbury pop video!

I found this catchy, cute, well put together video - thanks to fellow Ghana blogger Prissy over at her great site SIMPLY PRISSY. Great to see a Ghana goat in gold sequins and an animated cocoa bean galloping through a typical village street in a music video!

Found some info. about it here.



Cadbury is celebrating the move to fair trade chocolate with the launch of Glass and A Half Records, an album inspired by the music of Africa. The first single, “Zingolo”, celebrates all things Ghana, its people, its rappers, its dancers, its cultural figures and, of course, its cocoa beans.

The initiative is aimed at emphasising Cadbury’s 101 year-history of trading with Ghanaian cocoa farmers. Starring villagers of a Ghanian village, all proceeds from the Zingolo single at iTunes will go to charity Care, which works with the cocoa communities in Ghana.

The campaign also features print ads designed and painted by Ghanaians using traditional Ghanaian techniques.

Phil Rumbol, marketing director for Cadbury says: “We wanted to celebrate Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Fairtrade certification and Ghana, the heart of our Fairtrade cocoa, in a unique way. Music has always been a big part of Glass and a Half Full Productions and we were inspired by Ghana’s love of music so it seemed the perfect way to capture the spirit of the country was through a track. We hope we’ll bring a smile to people’s faces.” Cadbury Dairy milk is now Fairtrade in the UK and Ireland and will extend this to Canada Australia and New Zealand in 2010.


I'm going to reserve my comments about the charity aspect of the video, with proceeds going toward Care International, but interestingly, all the credits on the video are for people and post production outside Ghana...

Credits

The Zingolo campaign was developed at Fallon, London, by executive creative director Richard Flintham, creative directors Chris Bovill, John Allison, creatives Filip Tyden, Dan Watts, Chris Bovill, John Allison, account director Nathalie Clarke, agency producer Tom Goodwin, executive producer Nicky Barnes and agency producer Gemma Knight.

Filming was shot by director Ringan Ledwidge via Rattling Stick with producer Sally Humphries with director of photography Franz Lustig.

Editor was Rich Orrick at Work Post. Post production was done at The Mill, London.

Music was composed by Paul Epwort and produced by Alex Lavery and Simon Rose at Pitch & Sync. Audio post-production was produced by Parv Thind at Wave Studios.

Media planner was Ellie Roberts at PHD.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Penguins, Pink Tongues and ATMs - a great wedding all round

Not surprisingly I survived the wedding. Not only survived, but actually enjoyed it. I mean hey, it was a week long holiday to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in the company of all my boys. Ideal almost!

It was Q’s first time south of the equator and he kept obsessing about figuring out whether water goes down the drain in the opposite direction from the northern hemisphere. In the end I don’t think it was ever figured out. We were too busy having a blast.

We stayed in a bunch of amazingly trendy flats in an area of Cape Town called De Waterkant (Afrikaans, and absolutely rude when pronounced properly (duh vah ter kuhnt) to us English speakers!)
Q had a field day with that one! Their website lists the properties as ideal for ‘gay stay’ which was quite far from our agenda, but nonetheless, we found out the area had other ideas… The area used to be quite rough, but has been cleaned up recently and lots of cafes, cute shops and boutique hotels line the streets. The owners are a friendly enough gay couple, who have an array of gay focused brochures and newspapers, and while we sat in the office on a serious note, discussing a potential theft of camera SD cards, I couldn’t help but pick up a copy of the Pink Tongue!!

But I definitely digress.

We went for a wedding and it was a great one. It was all a bit last minute and why not?! Stress shouldn’t be part of the party to unite two souls in my opinion. The day before the nuptials, we were huddled around an ATM en mass, trying to draw enough cash to pay the stubborn wedding planners who told us just then that thy didn’t take credit cards…

On the morning of the wedding, the ceremony was e-mailed to the officiating friend to read and remember, and on the way to the venue with our bride in tow, she let us know she’d forgotten a cake. No worries! We pulled over at a bakery in Simonstown and picked up a cute little chocolate lemon cake, which the wedding venue decorated with flowers and which came in handy later, for bride and groom to cut symbolically together and smear in each other’s faces. All in good fun.



The ceremony itself, at Boulder’s Beach, with the penguins and other visitors to the park as the background audience, was blessed with the best weather in Cape Town one could ever hope for. No wind, lots of sun…

It looked like a movie scene… Our bride looked beautiful. The whole backdrop was surreal. I don't think you could have asked for better.

I volunteered as photographer while JW and our boy's mom sat upfront to proudly ‘give away’ their son. I saved my hugs and pride for later, and wiped away the happy tears from behind my lense…

And the after party put all family differences in the bin, while we bonded and danced and drank and danced some more until it was midnight and the DJ called it a night… I think we could have gone on for hours.

The best part of this trip was seeing all the boys bond. In step-families it can go wrong so easily. It can make life uneasy and put all the relationships on edge. In our case however it has always gone well. Everyone gets along. Everyone accepts and gets on with life. And on this trip everyone had the chance to hang out (which isn't often now that the big boys are scattered across North America and we are here on the dark continent), to support each other, to be proud and to feel the love that family represents. I felt something shift. We’d all become closer. We’d all grown and we’d gained even more respect for each other. And that is good enough for me!
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